We had the good fortune of connecting with Leticia Santiago-Jones and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leticia, what do you want your legacy to be?
Legacy building has become paramount the more seasoned I become. Legacy building guides the content of my conversations. I’ve become very intentional about sowing words that will breed life, sow wisdom, encourage, and educate the listener long after I’m gone.
Legacy building dictates the relationships that occupy my space. Only positive people of all ages that are hungry to grow and evolve are allowed. People with the desire to become the best version of themselves. People willing to receive but also willing to give. These humans fire me up and move me to pour into them. Impart lessons from my legacy journey.
I want my legacy to be grounded in love, service, and resilience. These are the three critical factors that truly saved my life and have ushered me into this amazing season of entrepreneurship. Little Puerto Rican girls from the Bronx are not seen as destined for greatness. My early environment built resilience. The love of my grandmother and her modeling service demonstrated their power and that I had purpose.
I want people to remember that in the face of fear and uncertainty I still chose to be a trailblazer. I want people to remember that I often had to stand alone but the reward of making change was worth it. I want people to remember that I was driven to prove every data point about little Puerto Rican girls from the Bronx wrong. I want people to remember that I was driven by love and service.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
reignitED has taken on the audacious task of rebranding the teaching profession one healthy teacher, school, and district at a time. Our strategy is simply to empower these spaces to create an ecosystem that promotes well-being as a way of life. Most people don’t understand the magnitude and the overall impact of the teacher shortage. The teacher turnover rates by some estimations comes with a $3.3 billion dollar annual price tag. If this happened in any publicly traded company it would cause a frenzy. Teacher turnover impacts the workforce as our nation is unable to produce skilled workers, critical thinkers, and a workforce that is unable to compete globally.
Now, am I saying that it is a one solution answer no. Am I saying that we should blame teachers, no. I do propose that reignitED is in a unique position that brings a “trifecta” perspective to this problem. I began my career as a teacher and I have firsthand experience with teacher burnout and the many challenges of being an educator. Early on in my career I decided to earn a Masters in Professional Counseling. I observed the need in the lives of my students for a holistic approach to learning. Educating the whole child! After becoming Teacher of the Year opportunities to co-lead district level initiatives were presented. One of those opportunities landed me on the Talent Management Team. I traveled the state and the country recruiting teachers. Just like my students I saw a holistic approach was needed in an effort to attract and retain top teacher talent. reignitED was launched in honor of my 50th birthday. Instead of receiving gifts I was determined to serve my profession in a new and exciting way. On my terms!
I must say I am most proud of the courage I mustered to resign after 20+ years of service at the district to take on this task. Most days I don’t think about the enormity of the task. Education saved my life and I’m laser focused on saving the profession that saved me. I get excited by the teachers that have applied the self-care tools taught and report living a much more robust and fulfilled life. I get excited when a school or a district reaches out because they now see the importance of focusing on teacher and staff wellbeing. I get excited when I envision the day teaching gets the respect and honor it deserves. Not lip service!
Transitioning to the Central Office really reinforced that education is a business. It fueled my desire to run a business of my own and build the capacity of those around me. As my custom I wore and continue to wear the hat of a student. The pandemic really pushed me to pursue my dreams of becoming a business owner. I thought small, I’ll start by blogging until I invest in a business coach. The Brand and Business Academy (Shontavia Johnson, Esq.) changed my life. I was a sponge and soaked it all in establishing a foundation. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done. A total leap of faith to launch a business and resign during a pandemic. I overcame the challenges by constantly focusing on my WHY? Ultimately, my why is the millions of children impacted by teacher attrition (especially children of color). Healthy teachers impact the academic and emotional success of students.
I’ve learned many lessons (I’m still learning) along the way. I’ve learned to fully appreciate every experience both professionally and personally. It didn’t make sense then but now makes the gratitude list. Like helping open a new school and thinking I didn’t sign up for this and now I appreciate it all. I’ve learned that the obstacles put before women of color are real but so is my resolve to jump over, under, or push through each one. Finally, I’ve learned that there is nothing like waking up everyday knowing that I am living in the stream of God’s purpose for my life. Knowing that I am impacting someone every day. Spreading knowledge, light, and love!
I want the world to know that my brand is about exposing the lack of empathy, compassion, and toxicity in education that keeps the system from thriving. My brand is bigger than teacher wellness. It is about systemic change.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
So our week would have to include a CitiPass so that we can visit the daytime attractions (Botanical Gardens, Civil Rights Museum, Aquarium, etc.) Certainly a show at the Fox Theatre. Pascal’s is famous for southern cuisine, so a must for dinner. Our beltline and green space is pretty awesome. We’d end the last few days of our visit at Chateau Elan Winery & Resort/Spa.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Maria Graciella Mercado (paternal grandmother)
Youtube: The Teacher Wellness Lounge
Ashley Russell (Ashley Shoots Photography) She is not to be given credit of the picture behind mic